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11 April 2007

Join the day of 1,184 protests

Welcome to the strange New Labour world in which you can be arrested for possessing a cake...

By Mark Thomas

Oh dear readers, now is your time, now is the moment, this is your chance to get all the gripes, groans and disgust with New Labour out of your system in one go! I’m offering you- dear sweet reader – this once in a lifetime moment! “What is you it?” you cry in eager mental salivation. It is gestalt protest! It’s therapy, it’s protest, it’s fun! Join me in the land of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA)!

This is the law that requires us to get permission from the police 6 days prior to demonstrating in Parliament Square or the designated area that runs from Millbank to the Southbank, Admiralty Arch to M15 and St James’ Park to Lambeth Palace.

The means anyone that the police deem to be a protestor can be arrested in this area unless they have permission from the police. The police’s interpretation of what constitutes a protest has seen a woman picnicking in Parliament Square threatened with arrest for having the word “PEACE” iced on a cake.

Maya Evans has been charged and convicted of a criminal offence for ringing a bell and reading out names of the British and Iraqi war dead at the Cenotaph. A man dressed as Charlie Chaplin holding a sign reading “Not Allowed” outside Downing St was arrested and convicted of demonstrating without permission.

So wide ranging is the interpretation of what constitutes a protest that I was advised to get permission to wear a red nose on Red Nose Day in Parliament Square. Which I duly did. I had to apply to the police to wear a red nose in case an office on duty regarded my red nose as an unauthorised demonstration.

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When a person can be arrested for a cake or a badge or indeed a red nose then we have arrived at a weird world of New Labour logic. That the midwife of this law was former left winger Peter Hain should come as no surprise.

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“But, sweet Mark,” you whimper, “how can we find our way out of this Labyrinth of madness?”

Allow me dear reader to elucidate. This is your chance to be part of the biggest challenge yet to the SOCPA laws. Last year I applied for permission to hold 21 demonstrations in the “designated area” , each demo was in a different place and on a different subject. The police granted me the relevant paperwork for these demonstrations- as according to the Home Office and the law the police MUST give permission. And I on the 9th of October 2006 I became a Guinness World Record holder for the most political demonstrations.

Now this is where we step up a gear. On the 5th of April 2007 myself and other protestors handed the police 1,184 requests for demonstrations – all taking place on Saturday 21st April. The police will either process the demonstrations proving that bad laws have implications for the state as well as the citizenry.

Or the police will seek a legal route to refuse the processing of the demonstrations, proving that under New Labour the balance of rights and accountability has swung away from the people and in favour of the state. Either way it is New Labour’s law and their problem.

“But where do we come in, your humble readers?” I am so glad you asked.

You too dear reader have the chance to join the record breaking number of demonstrations, you too can apply to do 20 demos in a day. Or if you can’t make the whole thing come along for the final demo in Parliament Square at 5.20pm on the 21st. Let 2,000 demonstrations bloom!

To find out how you can join in and get the demo fact sheet Click here. All applications must be in by Sunday 15th 10.30am.

Map created from OpenStreetMap data.